A leader of the largest group working to attract new businesses to the Kansas City area told a Lawrence crowd Thursday that he expects to see positive signs in 2012.
At an event sponsored by the KU Credit Union, Tim Cowden, senior vice president of the Kansas City Area Development Council, and City Commissioner Mike Dever offered predictions on economic development issues for the coming year.
Here’s a look, first from Cowden:
• Expect U.S. manufacturing to gain some strength. The big term in the manufacturing sector is “reshoring,” as opposed to offshoring, Cowden said. He said several national economic development leaders are predicting companies that have offshored their work may now be rethinking those decisions. There are wage inflation pressures in China and India, Cowden noted, that may change the cost equations for those companies.
• Expect growth in information technology jobs. Kansas City already has received a commitment from NetSmart Technologies to move its headquarters from New York to the Kansas City area. NetSmart will produce 500 jobs for the area and is expected to announce where it will land specifically in the Kansas City metro area in the next few days, Cowden said. In addition, KCADC is in discussions with another company that would add 700 IT jobs to the region.
• Be open to warehouses. During the economic downturn, companies have allowed their logistics systems to become stretched thin. Now, Cowden said, hope of increased consumer confidence has them expanding their delivery systems. KCADC currently is in discussions with three potential warehouse-type projects: one that would need 250,000 square feet of space, another 500,000 square feet and one that would need about 2 million square feet of space.
“I know there are areas that don’t want warehouses, but it really is a big deal for Kansas City,” Cowden said.
• An increased emphasis on city planning. Dever said he still thinks the city needs to fight the perception that its development process is too difficult.
• Continued cooperation with Kansas University. Dever cited the bioscience and technology incubator, which is now completely filled, as an example of how the university and economic development leaders can work together.
• Increased activity at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant. The city intends to convert the more than 400 acres at the site into a business and industrial park. Planning and some infrastructure construction is expected to begin this year on the property, which suffered from years of nitrogen fertilizer contamination.
“I know there are people who really questioned why we would take on this piece of property,” Dever said. “But I can tell you as an environmental consultant, I think it will end up being one of the best investments this community ever makes. I think that site is going to be a real windfall for the community.”
About 40 community and business leaders attended the Thursday morning event at the Lied Center.